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  • 1883
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needs to be told again and again before he will understand. You have orders enough to start with, and you will find, as you go on, and as you need to know, what you have to do. But I warn you that perhaps it will not look the least like what you may have been fancying I should require of you. I have one idea of you and your work, and you have another. I do not blame you for that – you cannot help it yet; but you must be ready to let my idea, which sets you working, set your idea right. Be true and honest and fearless, and all shall go well with you and your work, and all with whom your work lies, and so with your parents – and me too, Curdie,’ she added after a little pause.

The young miner bowed his head low, patted the strange head that lay at the princess’s feet, and turned away. As soon as he passed the spinning wheel, which looked, in the midst of the glorious room, just like any wheel you might find in a country cottage – old and worn and dingy and dusty – the splendour of the place vanished, and he saw but the big bare room he seemed at first to have entered, with the moon – the princess’s moon no doubt – shining in at one of the windows upon the spinning wheel.

CHAPTER 9
Hands

Curdie went home, pondering much, and told everything to his father and mother. As the old princess had said, it was now their turn to find what they heard hard to believe. if they had not been able to trust Curdie himself, they would have refused to believe more than the half of what he reported, then they would have refused that half too, and at last would most likely for a time have disbelieved in the very existence of the princess, what evidence their own senses had given them notwithstanding.

For he had nothing conclusive to show in proof of what he told them. When he held out his hands to them, his mother said they looked as if he had been washing them with soft soap, only they did smell of something nicer than that, and she must allow it was more like roses than anything else she knew. His father could not see any difference upon his hands, but then it was night, he said, and their poor little lamp was not enough for his old eyes. As to the feel of them, each of his own hands, he said, was hard and horny enough for two, and it must be the fault of the dullness of his own thick skin that he felt no change on Curdie’s palms.

‘Here, Curdie,’ said his mother, ‘try my hand, and see what beast’s paw lies inside it.’
‘No, Mother,’ answered Curdie, half beseeching, half indignant, ‘I will not insult my new gift by making pretence to try it. That would be mockery. There is no hand within yours but the hand of a true woman, my mother.’

‘I should like you just to take hold of my hand though,’ said his mother. ‘You are my son, and may know all the bad there is in me.’

Then at once Curdie took her hand in his. And when he had it, he kept it, stroking it gently with his other hand.

‘Mother,’ he said at length, ‘your hand feels just like that of the princess.’

‘What! My horny, cracked, rheumatic old hand, with its big joints, and its short nails all worn down to the quick with hard work – like the hand of the beautiful princess! Why, my child, you will make me fancy your fingers have grown very dull indeed, instead of sharp and delicate, if you talk such nonsense. Mine is such an ugly hand I should be ashamed to show it to any but one that loved me. But love makes all safe – doesn’t it, Curdie?’

‘Well, Mother, all I can say is that I don’t feel a roughness, or a crack, or a big joint, or a short nail. Your hand feels just and exactly, as near as I can recollect, and it’s not more than two hours since I had it in mine – well, I will say, very like indeed to that of the old princess.’

‘Go away, you flatterer,’ said his mother, with a smile that showed how she prized the love that lay beneath what she took for its hyperbole. The praise even which one cannot accept is sweet from a true mouth. ‘If that is all your new gift can do, it won’t make a warlock of you,’ she added.

‘Mother, it tells me nothing but the truth,’ insisted Curdie, ‘however unlike the truth it may seem. it wants no gift to tell what anybody’s outside hands are like. But by it I know your inside hands are like the princess’s.’

‘And I am sure the boy speaks true,’ said Peter. ‘He only says about your hand what I have known ever so long about yourself, Joan. Curdie, your mother’s foot is as pretty a foot as any lady’s in the land, and where her hand is not so pretty it comes of killing its beauty for you and me, my boy. And I can tell you more, Curdie. I don’t know much about ladies and gentlemen, but I am sure your inside mother must be a lady, as her hand tells you, and I will try to say how I know it. This is how: when I forget myself looking at her as she goes about her work – and that happens often as I grow older – I fancy for a moment or two that I am a gentleman; and when I wake up from my little dream, it is only to feel the more strongly that I must do everything as a gentleman should. I will try to tell you what I mean, Curdie. If a gentleman – I mean a real gentleman, not a pretended one, of which sort they say there are a many above ground – if a real gentleman were to lose all his money and come down to work in the mines to get bread for his family – do you think, Curdie, he would work like the lazy ones? Would he try to do as little as he could for his wages? I know the sort of the true gentleman pretty near as well as he does himself. And my wife, that’s your mother, Curdie, she’s a true lady, you may take my word for it, for it’s she that makes me want to be a true gentleman. Wife, the boy is in the right about your hand.’

‘Now, Father, let me feel yours,’ said Curdie, daring a little more.

‘No, no, my boy,’ answered Peter. ‘I don’t want to hear anything about my hand or my head or my heart. I am what I am, and I hope growing better, and that’s enough. No, you shan’t feel my hand. You must go to bed, for you must start with the sun.’

It was not as if Curdie had been leaving them to go to prison, or to make a fortune, and although they were sorry enough to lose him, they were not in the least heartbroken or even troubled at his going.

As the princess had said he was to go like the poor man he was, Curdie came down in the morning from his little loft dressed in his working clothes. His mother, who was busy getting his breakfast for him, while his father sat reading to her out of an old book, would have had him put on his holiday garments, which, she said, would look poor enough among the fine ladies and gentlemen he was going to. But Curdie said he did not know that he was going among ladies and gentlemen, and that as work was better than play, his workday clothes must on the whole be better than his playday Clothes; and as his father accepted the argument, his mother gave in. When he had eaten his breakfast, she took a pouch made of goatskin, with the long hair on it, filled it with bread and cheese, and hung it over his shoulder. Then his father gave him a stick he had cut for him in the wood, and he bade them good-bye rather hurriedly, for he was afraid of breaking down. As he went out he caught up his mattock and took it with him. It had on the one side a pointed curve of strong steel for loosening the earth and the ore, and on the other a steel hammer for breaking the stones and rocks. just as he crossed the threshold the sun showed the first segment of his disc above the horizon.

CHAPTER 10
The Heath

He had to go to the bottom of the hill to get into a country he could cross, for the mountains to the north were full of precipices, and it would have been losing time to go that way. Not until he had reached the king’s house was it any use to turn northwards. Many a look did he raise, as he passed it, to the dove tower, and as long as it was in sight, but he saw nothing of the lady of the pigeons.

On and on he fared, and came in a few hours to a country where there were no mountains more – only hills, with great stretches of desolate heath. Here and there was a village, but that brought him little pleasure, for the people were rougher and worse mannered than those in the mountains, and as he passed through, the children came behind and mocked him.

‘There’s a monkey running away from the mines!’ they cried. Sometimes their parents came out and encouraged them.

‘He doesn’t want to find gold for the king any longer – the lazybones!’ they would say. ‘He’ll be well taxed down here though, and he won’t like that either.’

But it was little to Curdie that men who did not know what he was about should not approve of his proceedings. He gave them a merry answer now and then, and held diligently on his way. When they got so rude as nearly to make him angry, he would treat them as he used to treat the goblins, and sing his own songs to keep out their foolish noises. Once a child fell as he turned to run away after throwing a stone at him. He picked him up, kissed him, and carried him to his mother. The woman had run out in terror when she saw the strange miner about, as she thought, to take vengeance on her boy. When he put him in her arms, she blessed him, and Curdie went on his way rejoicing.

And so the day went on, and the evening came, and in the middle of a great desolate heath he began to feel tired, and sat down under an ancient hawthorn, through which every now and then a lone wind that seemed to come from nowhere and to go nowhither sighed and hissed. It was very old and distorted. There was not another tree for miles all around. it seemed to have lived so long, and to have been so torn and tossed by the tempests on that moor, that it had at last gathered a wind of its own, which got up now and then, tumbled itself about, and lay down again.

Curdie had been so eager to get on that he had eaten nothing since his breakfast. But he had had plenty of water, for Many little streams had crossed his path. He now opened the wallet his mother had given him, and began to eat his supper. The sun was setting. A few clouds had gathered about the west, but there was not a single cloud anywhere else to be seen.

Now Curdie did not know that this was a part of the country very hard to get through. Nobody lived there, though many had tried to build in it. Some died very soon. Some rushed out of it. Those who stayed longest went raving mad, and died a terrible death. Such as walked straight on, and did not spend a night there, got through well and were nothing the worse. But those who slept even a single night in it were sure to meet with something they could never forget, and which often left a mark everybody could read. And that old hawthorn Might have been enough for a warning – it looked so like a human being dried up and distorted with age and suffering, with cares instead of loves, and things instead of thoughts. Both it and the heath around it, which stretched on all sides as far as he could see, were so withered that it was impossible to say whether they were alive or not.

And while Curdie ate there came a change. Clouds had gathered over his head, and seemed drifting about in every direction, as if not ‘shepherded by the slow, unwilling wind,’ but hunted in all directions by wolfish flaws across the plains of the sky. The sun was going down in a storm of lurid crimson, and out of the west came a wind that felt red and hot the one moment, and cold and pale the other. And very strangely it sang in the dreary old hawthorn tree, and very cheerily it blew about Curdie, now making him creep close up to the tree for shelter from its shivery cold, now fan himself with his cap, it was so sultry and stifling. It seemed to come from the deathbed of the sun, dying in fever and ague.

And as he gazed at the sun, now on the verge of the horizon, very large and very red and very dull – for though the clouds had broken away a dusty fog was spread all over the disc – Curdie saw something strange appear against it, moving about like a fly over its burning face. This looked as if it were coming out of the sun’s furnace heart, and was a living creature of some kind surely; but its shape was very uncertain, because the dazzle of the light all around melted the outlines.

It was growing larger, it must be approaching! It grew so rapidly that by the time the sun was half down its head reached the top of the arch, and presently nothing but its legs were to be seen, crossing and recrossing the face of the vanishing disc.

When the sun was down he could see nothing of it more, but in a moment he heard its feet galloping over the dry crackling heather, and seeming to come straight for him. He stood up, lifted his pickaxes and threw the hammer end over his shoulder: he was going to have a fight for his life! And now it appeared again, vague, yet very awful, in the dim twilight the sun had left behind. But just before it reached him, down from its four long legs it dropped flat on the ground, and came crawling towards him, wagging a huge tail as it came.

CHAPTER 11
Lina

IT was Lina. All at once Curdie recognized her – the frightful creature he had seen at the princess’s. He dropped his pickaxes and held out his hand. She crept nearer and nearer, and laid her chin in his palm, and he patted her ugly head. Then she crept away behind the tree, and lay down, panting hard. Curdie did not much like the idea of her being behind him. Horrible as she was to look at, she seemed to his mind more horrible when he was not looking at her. But he remembered the child’s hand, and never thought of driving her away. Now and then he gave a glance behind him, and there she lay flat, with her eyes closed and her terrible teeth gleaming between her two huge forepaws.

After his supper and his long day’s journey it was no wonder Curdie should now be sleepy. Since the sun set the air had been warm and pleasant. He lay down under the tree, closed his eyes, and thought to sleep. He found himself mistaken, however. But although he could not sleep, he was yet aware of resting delightfully.

Presently he heard a sweet sound of singing somewhere, such as he had never heard before – a singing as of curious birds far off, which drew nearer and nearer. At length he heard their wings, and, opening his eyes, saw a number of very large birds, as it seemed, alighting around him, still singing. It was strange to hear song from the throats of such big birds.

And still singing, with large and round but not the less birdlike voices, they began to weave a strange dance about him, moving their wings in time with their legs. But the dance seemed somehow to be troubled and broken, and to return upon itself in an eddy, in place of sweeping smoothly on.

And he soon learned, in the low short growls behind him, the cause of the imperfection: they wanted to dance all round the tree, but Lina would not permit them to come on her side.

Now curdie liked the birds, and did not altogether like Lina. But neither, nor both together, made a reason for driving away the princess’s creature. Doubtless she had been the goblins’ creature, but the last time he saw her was in the king’s house and the dove tower, and at the old princess’s feet. So he left her to do as she would, and the dance of the birds continued only a semicircle, troubled at the edges, and returning upon itself.

But their song and their motions, nevertheless, and the waving of their wings, began at length to make him very sleepy. All the time he had kept doubting whether they could really be birds, and the sleepier he got, the more he imagined them something else, but he suspected no harm.

Suddenly, just as he was sinking beneath the waves of slumber, he awoke in fierce pain. The birds were upon him – all over him – and had begun to tear him with beaks and claws. He had but time, however, to feel that he could not move under their weight, when they set up a hideous screaming, and scattered like a cloud. Lina was among them, snapping and striking with her paws, while her tail knocked them over and over. But they flew up, gathered, and descended on her in a swarm, perching upon every part of her body, so that he could see only a huge misshapen mass, which seemed to go rolling away into the darkness. He got up and tried to follow, but could see nothing, and after wandering about hither and thither for some time, found himself again beside the hawthorn. He feared greatly that the birds had been too much for Lina, and had torn her to pieces. In a little while, however, she came limping back, and lay down in her old place. Curdie also lay down, but, from the pain of his wounds, there was no sleep for him. When the light came he found his clothes a good deal torn and his skin as well, but gladly wondered why the wicked birds had not at once attacked his eyes. Then he turned, looking for Lina. She rose and crept to him. But she was in far worse plight than he – plucked and gashed and torn with the beaks and claws of the birds, especially about the bare part of her neck, so that she was pitiful to see. And those worst wounds she could not reach to lick.

‘Poor Lina!’ said Curdie, ‘you got all those helping me.’

She wagged her tail, and made it clear she understood him. Then it flashed upon Curdie’s mind that perhaps this was the companion the princess had promised him. For the princess did so many things differently from what anybody looked for! Lina was no beauty certainly, but already, the first night, she had saved his life.

‘Come along, Lina,’ he said, ‘we want water.’

She put her nose to the earth, and after snuffing for a moment, darted off in a straight line. Curdie followed. The ground was so uneven, that after losing sight of her many times, at last he seemed to have lost her altogether. In a few minutes, however, he came upon her waiting for him. Instantly she darted off again. After he had lost and found her again many times, he found her the last time lying beside a great stone. As soon as he came up she began scratching at it with her paws. When he had raised it an inch or two, she shoved in first her nose and then her teeth, and lifted with all the might of her neck.

When at length between them they got it up, there was a beautiful little well. He filled his cap with the clearest and sweetest water, and drank. Then he gave to Lina, and she drank plentifully. Next he washed her wounds very carefully. And as he did so, he noted how much the bareness of her neck added to the strange repulsiveness of her appearance. Then he bethought him of the goatskin wallet his mother had given him, and taking it from his shoulders, tried whether it would do to make a collar of for the poor animal. He found there was just enough, and the hair so similar in colour to Lina’s, that no one could suspect it of having grown somewhere else.

He took his knife, ripped up the seams of the wallet, and began trying the skin to her neck. it was plain she understood perfectly what he wished, for she endeavoured to hold her neck conveniently, turning it this way and that while he contrived, with his rather scanty material, to make the collar fit. As his mother had taken care to provide him with needles and thread, he soon had a nice gorget ready for her. He laced it on with one of his boot laces, which its long hair covered. Poor Lina looked much better in it. Nor could any one have called it a piece of finery. If ever green eyes with a yellow light in them looked grateful, hers did.

As they had no longer any bag to carry them in, Curdie and Lina now ate what was left of the provisions. Then they set out again upon their journey. For seven days it lasted. They met with various adventures, and in all of them Lina proved so helpful, and so ready to risk her life for the sake of her companion, that Curdie grew not merely very fond but very trustful of her; and her ugliness, which at first only moved his pity, now actually increased his affection for her. One day, looking at her stretched on the grass before him, he said:

‘Oh, Lina! If the princess would but burn you in her fire of roses!’

She looked up at him, gave a mournful whine like a dog, and laid her head on his feet. What or how much he could not tell, but clearly she had gathered something from his words.

CHAPTER 12
More Creatures

One day from morning till night they had been passing through a forest. As soon as the sun was down Curdie began to be aware that there were more in it than themselves. First he saw only the swift rush of a figure across the trees at some distance. Then he saw another and then another at shorter intervals. Then he saw others both farther off and nearer. At last, missing Lina and looking about after her, he saw an appearance as marvellous as herself steal up to her, and begin conversing with her after some beast fashion which evidently she understood.

Presently what seemed a quarrel arose between them, and stranger noises followed, mingled with growling. At length it came to a fight, which had not lasted long, however, before the creature of the wood threw itself upon its back, and held up its paws to Lina. She instantly walked on, and the creature got up and followed her. They had not gone far before another strange animal appeared, approaching Lina, when precisely the same thing was repeated, the vanquished animal rising and following with the former. Again, and yet again, and again, a fresh animal came up, seemed to be reasoned and certainly was fought with and overcome by Lina, until at last, before they were out of the wood, she was followed by forty-nine of the most grotesquely ugly, the most extravagantly abnormal animals imagination can conceive. To describe them were a hopeless task.

I knew a boy who used to make animals out of heather roots. Wherever he could find four legs, he was pretty sure to find a head and a tail. His beasts were a most comic menagerie, and right fruitful of laughter. But they were not so grotesque and extravagant as Lina and her followers. One of them, for instance, was like a boa constrictor walking on four little stumpy legs near its tail. About the same distance from its head were two little wings, which it was forever fluttering as if trying to fly with them. Curdie thought it fancied it did fly with them, when it was merely plodding on busily with its four little stumps. How it managed to keep up he could not think, till once when he missed it from the group: the same moment he caught sight of something at a distance plunging at an awful serpentine rate through the trees, and presently, from behind a huge ash, this same creature fell again into the group, quietly waddling along on its four stumps.

Watching it after this, he saw that, when it was not able to keep up any longer, and they had all got a little space ahead, it shot into the wood away from the route, and made a great round, serpentine alone in huge billows of motion, devouring the ground, undulating awfully, galloping as if it were all legs together, and its four stumps nowhere. In this mad fashion it shot ahead, and, a few minutes after, toddled in again among the rest, walking peacefully and somewhat painfully on its few fours.

From the time it takes to describe one of them it will be readily seen that it would hardly do to attempt a description of each of the forty-nine. They were not a goodly company, but well worth contemplating, nevertheless; and Curdie had been too long used to the goblins’ creatures in the mines and on the mountain, to feel the least uncomfortable at being followed by such a herd. On the contrary, the marvellous vagaries of shape they manifested amused him greatly, and shortened the journey much.

Before they were all gathered, however, it had got so dark that he could see some of them only a part at a time, and every now and then, as the company wandered on, he would be startled by some extraordinary limb or feature, undreamed of by him before, thrusting itself out of the darkness into the range of his ken. Probably there were some of his old acquaintances among them, although such had been the conditions of semi-darkness, in which alone he had ever seen any of them, that it was not like he would be able to identify any of them.

On they marched solemnly, almost in silence, for either with feet or voice the creatures seldom made any noise. By the time they reached the outside of the wood it was morning twilight. Into the open trooped the strange torrent of deformity, each one following Lina. Suddenly she stopped, turned towards them, and said something which they understood, although to Curdie’s ear the sounds she made seemed to have no articulation. Instantly they all turned, and vanished in the forest, and Lina alone came trotting lithely and clumsily after her master.

CHAPTER 13
The Baker’s Wife

They were now passing through a lovely country of hill and dale and rushing stream. The hills were abrupt, with broken chasms for watercourses, and deep little valleys full of trees. But now and then they came to a larger valley, with a fine river, whose level banks and the adjacent meadows were dotted all over with red and white kine, while on the fields above, that sloped a little to the foot of the hills, grew oats and barley and wheat, and on the sides of the hills themselves vines hung and chestnuts rose.

They came at last to a broad, beautiful river, up which they must go to arrive at the city of Gwyntystorm, where the king had his court. As they went the valley narrowed, and then the river, but still it was wide enough for large boats. After this, while the river kept its size, the banks narrowed, until there was only room for a road between the river and the great Cliffs that overhung it. At last river and road took a sudden turn, and lo! a great rock in the river, which dividing flowed around it, and on the top of the rock the city, with lofty walls and towers and battlements, and above the city the palace of the king, built like a strong castle. But the fortifications had long been neglected, for the whole country was now under one king, and all men said there was no more need for weapons or walls. No man pretended to love his neighbour, but every one said he knew that peace and quiet behaviour was the best thing for himself, and that, he said, was quite as useful, and a great deal more reasonable. The city was prosperous and rich, and if everybody was not comfortable, everybody else said he ought to be.

When Curdie got up opposite the mighty rock, which sparkled all over with crystals, he found a narrow bridge, defended by gates and portcullis and towers with loopholes. But the gates stood wide open, and were dropping from their great hinges; the portcullis was eaten away with rust, and clung to the grooves evidently immovable; while the loopholed towers had neither floor nor roof, and their tops were fast filling up their interiors. Curdie thought it a pity, if only for their old story, that they should be thus neglected. But everybody in the city regarded these signs of decay as the best proof of the prosperity of the place. Commerce and self-interest, they said, had got the better of violence, and the troubles of the past were whelmed in the riches that flowed in at their open gates.

Indeed, there was one sect of philosophers in it which taught that it would be better to forget all the past history of the city, were it not that its former imperfections taught its present inhabitants how superior they and their times were, and enabled them to glory over their ancestors. There were even certain quacks in the city who advertised pills for enabling people to think well of themselves, and some few bought of them, but most laughed, and said, with evident truth, that they did not require them. Indeed, the general theme of discourse when they met was, how much wiser they were than their fathers.

Curdie crossed the river, and began to ascend the winding road that led up to the city. They met a good many idlers, and all stared at them. It was no wonder they should stare, but there was an unfriendliness in their looks which Curdie did not like. No one, however, offered them any molestation: Lina did not invite liberties. After a long ascent, they reached the principal gate of the city and entered.

The street was very steep, ascending toward the palace, which rose in great strength above all the houses. just as they entered, a baker, whose shop was a few doors inside the gate, came out in his white apron, and ran to the shop of his friend, the barber, on the opposite side of the way. But as he ran he stumbled and fell heavily. Curdie hastened to help him up, and found he had bruised his forehead badly. He swore grievously at the stone for tripping him up, declaring it was the third time he had fallen over it within the last month; and saying what was the king about that he allowed such a stone to stick up forever on the main street of his royal residence of Gwyntystorm! What was a king for if he would not take care of his people’s heads! And he stroked his forehead tenderly.
‘Was it your head or your feet that ought to bear the blame of your fall?’ asked Curdie.

‘Why, you booby of a miner! My feet, of course,’ answered

the baker.

‘Nay, then,’ said Curdie, ‘the king can’t be to blame.’

‘Oh, I see!’ said the baker. ‘You’re laying a trap for me. Of course, if you come to that, it was my head that ought to have looked after my feet. But it is the king’s part to look after us all, and have his streets smooth.’

‘Well, I don’t see, said Curdie, ‘why the king should take care of the baker, when the baker’s head won’t take care of the baker’s feet.’

‘Who are you to make game of the king’s baker?’ cried the man in a rage.

But, instead of answering, Curdie went up to the bump on the street which had repeated itself on the baker’s head, and turning the hammer end of his mattock, struck it such a blow that it flew wide in pieces. Blow after blow he struck until he had levelled it with the street.

But out flew the barber upon him in a rage. ‘What do you break my window for, you rascal, with your pickaxe?’

‘I am very sorry,’ said Curdie. ‘It must have been a bit of stone that flew from my mattock. I couldn’t help it, you know.’

‘Couldn’t help it! A fine story! What do you go breaking the rock for – the very rock upon which the city stands?’

‘Look at your friend’s forehead,’ said Curdie. ‘See what a lump he has got on it with falling over that same stone.’

‘What’s that to my window?’ cried the barber. ‘His forehead can mend itself; my poor window can’t.’

‘But he’s the king’s baker,’ said Curdie, more and more surprised at the man’s anger.

‘What’s that to me? This is a free city. Every man here takes care of himself, and the king takes care of us all. I’ll have the price of my window out of you, or the exchequer shall pay for it.’

Something caught Curdie’s eye. He stooped, picked up a piece of the stone he had just broken, and put it in his pocket.

‘I suppose you are going to break another of my windows with that stone!’ said the barber.

‘Oh no,’ said Curdie. ‘I didn’t mean to break your window, and I certainly won’t break another.’

‘Give me that stone,’ said the barber.

Curdie gave it him, and the barber threw it over the city wall.

‘I thought you wanted the stone,’ said Curdie.

‘No, you fool!’ answered the barber. ‘What should I want with a stone?’

Curdie stooped and picked up another.

‘Give me that stone,’ said the barber.

‘No,’ answered Curdie. ‘You have just told me YOU don’t want a stone, and I do.’

The barber took Curdie by the collar.

‘Come, now! You pay me for that window.’

‘How much?’ asked Curdie.

The barber said, ‘A crown.’ But the baker, annoyed at the heartlessness of the barber, in thinking more of his broken window than the bump on his friend’s forehead, interfered.

‘No, no,’ he said to Curdie; ‘don’t you pay any such sum. A little pane like that cost only a quarter.’

‘Well, to be certain,’ said Curdie, ‘I’ll give a half.’ For he doubted the baker as well as the barber. ‘Perhaps one day, if he finds he has asked too much, he will bring me the difference.’

‘Ha! ha!’ laughed the barber. ‘A fool and his money are soon parted.’

But as he took the coin from Curdie’s hand he grasped it in affected reconciliation and real satisfaction. In Curdie’s, his was the cold smooth leathery palm of a monkey. He looked up, almost expecting to see him pop the money in his cheek; but he had not yet got so far as that, though he was well on the road to it: then he would have no other pocket.

‘I’m glad that stone is gone, anyhow,’ said the baker. ‘It was the bane of my life. I had no idea how easy it was to remove it. Give me your pickaxes young miner, and I will show you how a baker can make the stones fly.’

He caught the tool out of Curdie’s hand, and flew at one of the foundation stones of the gateway. But he jarred his arm terribly, scarcely chipped the stone, dropped the mattock with a cry of pain, and ran into his own shop. Curdie picked up his implement, and, looking after the baker, saw bread in the window, and followed him in. But the baker, ashamed of himself, and thinking he was coming to laugh at him, popped out of the back door, and when Curdie entered, the baker’s wife came from the bakehouse to serve him. Curdie requested to know the price of a certain good-sized loaf.

Now the baker’s wife had been watching what had passed since first her husband ran out of the shop, and she liked the look of Curdie. Also she was more honest than her husband. Casting a glance to the back door, she replied:

‘That is not the best bread. I will sell you a loaf of what we bake for ourselves.’ And when she had spoken she laid a finger on her lips. ‘Take care of yourself in this place, MY son,’ she added. ‘They do not love strangers. I was once a stranger here, and I know what I say.’ Then fancying she heard her husband, ‘That is a strange animal you have,’ she said, in a louder voice.

‘Yes,’ answered Curdie. ‘She is no beauty, but she is very good, and we love each other. Don’t we, Lina?’

Lina looked up and whined. Curdie threw her the half of his loaf, which she ate, while her master and the baker’s wife talked a little. Then the baker’s wife gave them some water, and Curdie having paid for his loaf, he and Lina went up the street together.

CHAPTER 14
The Dogs of Gwyntystorm

The steep street led them straight up to a large market place with butchers’ shops, about which were many dogs. The moment they caught sight of Lina, one and all they came rushing down upon her, giving her no chance of explaining herself. When Curdie saw the dogs coming he heaved up his mattock over his shoulder, and was ready, if they would have it so. Seeing him thus prepared to defend his follower, a great ugly bulldog flew at him. With the first blow Curdie struck him through the brain and the brute fell dead at his feet. But he could not at once recover his weapon, which stuck in the skull of his foe, and a huge mastiff, seeing him thus hampered, flew at him next.

Now Lina, who had shown herself so brave upon the road thither, had grown shy upon entering the city, and kept always at Curdie’s heel. But it was her turn now. The moment she saw her master in danger she seemed to go mad with rage. As the mastiff jumped at Curdie’s throat, Lina flew at him, seized him with her tremendous jaws, gave one roaring grind, and he lay beside the bulldog with his neck broken. They were the best dogs in the market, after the judgement of the butchers of Gwyntystorm. Down came their masters, knives in hand.

Curdie drew himself up fearlessly, mattock on shoulder, and awaited their coming, while at his heel his awful attendant showed not only her outside fringe of icicle teeth, but a double row of right serviceable fangs she wore inside her mouth, and her green eyes flashed yellow as gold. The butchers, not liking the look of either of them or of the dogs at their feet, drew back, and began to remonstrate in the manner of outraged men.

‘Stranger,’ said the first, ‘that bulldog is mine.’

‘Take him, then,’ said Curdie, indignant.

‘You’ve killed him!’

‘Yes – else he would have killed me.’

‘That’s no business of mine.’

‘No?’

‘No.’

‘That makes it the more mine, then.’

‘This sort of thing won’t do, you know,’ said the other butcher.

‘That’s true,’ said Curdie.
‘That’s my mastiff,’ said the butcher.

‘And as he ought to be,’ said Curdie.

‘Your brute shall be burned alive for it,’ said the butcher.

‘Not yet,’ answered Curdie. ‘We have done no wrong. We were walking quietly up your street when your dogs flew at us. If you don’t teach your dogs how to treat strangers, you must take the consequences.’

‘They treat them quite properly,’ said the butcher. ‘What right has any one to bring an abomination like that into our city? The horror is enough to make an idiot of every child in the place.’

‘We are both subjects of the king, and my poor animal can’t help her looks. How would you like to be served like that because you were ugly? She’s not a bit fonder of her looks than you are – only what can she do to change them?’

‘I’ll do to change them,’ said the fellow.

Thereupon the butchers brandished their long knives and advanced, keeping their eyes upon Lina.

‘Don’t be afraid, Lina,’ cried Curdie. ‘I’ll kill one – you kill the other.’

Lina gave a howl that might have terrified an army, and crouched ready to spring. The butchers turned and ran.

By this time a great crowd had gathered behind the butchers, and in it a number of boys returning from school who began to stone the strangers. It was a way they had with man or beast they did not expect to make anything by. One of the stones struck Lina; she caught it in her teeth and crunched it so that it fell in gravel from her mouth. Some of the foremost of the crowd saw this, and it terrified them. They drew back; the rest took fright from their retreat; the panic spread; and at last the crowd scattered in all directions. They ran, and cried out, and said the devil and his dam were come to Gwyntystorm. So Curdie and Lina were left standing unmolested in the market place. But the terror of them spread throughout the city, and everybody began to shut and lock his door so that by the time the setting sun shone down the street, there was not a shop left open, for fear of the devil and his horrible dam. But all the upper windows within sight of them were crowded with heads watching them where they stood lonely in the deserted market place.

Curdie looked carefully all round, but could not see one open door. He caught sight of the sign of an inn, however, and laying down his mattock, and telling Lina to take care of it, walked up to the door of it and knocked. But the people in the house, instead of opening the door, threw things at him from the windows. They would not listen to a word he said, but sent him back to Lina with the blood running down his face. When Lina saw that she leaped up in a fury and was rushing at the house, into which she would certainly have broken; but Curdie called her, and made her lie down beside him while he bethought him what next he should do.

‘Lina,’ he said, ‘the people keep their gates open, but their houses and their hearts shut.’

As if she knew it was her presence that had brought this trouble upon him, she rose and went round and round him, purring like a tigress, and rubbing herself against his legs.

Now there was one little thatched house that stood squeezed in between two tall gables, and the sides of the two great houses shot out projecting windows that nearly met across the roof of the little one, so that it lay in the street like a doll’s house. In this house lived a poor old woman, with a grandchild. And because she never gossiped or quarrelled, or chaffered in the market, but went without what she could not afford, the people called her a witch, and would have done her many an ill turn if they had not been afraid of her.

Now while Curdie was looking in another direction the door opened, and out came a little dark-haired, black-eyed, gypsy-looking child, and toddled across the market place toward the outcasts. The moment they saw her coming, Lina lay down flat on the road, and with her two huge forepaws covered her mouth, while Curdie went to meet her, holding out his arms. The little one came straight to him, and held up her mouth to be kissed. Then she took him by the hand, and drew him toward the house, and Curdie yielded to the silent invitation.

But when Lina rose to follow, the child shrank from her, frightened a little. Curdie took her up, and holding her on one arm, patted Lina with the other hand. Then the child wanted also to pat doggy, as she called her by a right bountiful stretch of courtesy, and having once patted her, nothing would serve but Curdie must let her have a ride on doggy. So he set her on Lina’s back, holding her hand, and she rode home in merry triumph, all unconscious of the hundreds of eyes staring at her foolhardiness from the windows about the market place, or the murmur of deep disapproval that rose from as many lips.

At the door stood the grandmother to receive them. She caught the child to her bosom with delight at her courage, welcomed Curdie, and showed no dread of Lina. Many were the significant nods exchanged, and many a one said to another that the devil and the witch were old friends. But the woman was only a wise woman, who, having seen how Curdie and Lina behaved to each other, judged from that what sort they were, and so made them welcome to her house. She was not like her fellow townspeople, for that they were strangers recommended them to her.

The moment her door was shut the other doors began to open, and soon there appeared little groups here and there about a threshold, while a few of the more courageous ventured out upon the square – all ready to make for their houses again, however, upon the least sign of movement in the little thatched one.

The baker and the barber had joined one of these groups, and were busily wagging their tongues against Curdie and his horrible beast.

‘He can’t be honest,’ said the barber; ‘for he paid me double the worth of the pane he broke in my window.’

And then he told them how Curdie broke his window by breaking a stone in the street with his hammer. There the baker struck in.

‘Now that was the stone,’ said he, ‘over which I had fallen three times within the last month: could it be by fair means he broke that to pieces at the first blow? Just to make up my mind on that point I tried his own hammer against a stone in the gate; it nearly broke both my arms, and loosened half the teeth in my head!’

CHAPTER 15
Derba and Barbara

Meantime the wanderers were hospitably entertained by the old woman and her grandchild and they were all very comfortable and happy together. Little Barbara sat upon Curdie’s knee, and he told her stories about the mines and his adventures in them. But he never mentioned the king or the princess, for all that story was hard to believe. And he told her about his mother and father, and how good they were. And Derba sat and listened. At last little Barbara fell asleep in Curdie’s arms, and her grandmother carried her to bed.

It was a poor little house, and Derba gave up her own room to Curdie because he was honest and talked wisely. Curdie saw how it was, and begged her to allow him to lie on the floor, but she would not hear of it.

In the night he was waked by Lina pulling at him. As soon as he spoke to her she ceased, and Curdie, listening, thought he heard someone trying to get in. He rose, took his mattock, and went about the house, listening and watching; but although he heard noises now at one place now at another, he could not think what they meant for no one appeared. Certainly, considering how she had frightened them all in the day, it was not likely any one would attack Lina at night. By and by the noises ceased, and Curdie went back to his bed, and slept undisturbed.

In the morning, however, Derba came to him in great agitation, and said they had fastened up the door, so that she could not get out. Curdie rose immediately and went with her: they found that not only the door, but every window in the house was so secured on the outside that it was impossible to open one of them without using great force. Poor Derba looked anxiously in Curdie’s face. He broke out laughing.

‘They are much mistaken,’ he said, ‘if they fancy they could keep Lina and a miner in any house in Gwyntystorm – even if they built up doors and windows.’

With that he shouldered his mattock. But Derba begged him not to make a hole in her house just yet. She had plenty for breakfast, she said, and before it was time for dinner they would know what the people meant by it.

And indeed they did. For within an hour appeared one of the chief magistrates of the city, accompanied by a score of soldiers with drawn swords, and followed by a great multitude of people, requiring the miner and his brute to yield themselves, the one that he might be tried for the disturbance he had occasioned and the injury he had committed, the other that she might be roasted alive for her part in killing two valuable and harmless animals belonging to worthy citizens. The summons was preceded and followed by flourish of trumpet, and was read with every formality by the city marshal himself.

The moment he ended, Lina ran into the little passage, and stood opposite the door.

‘I surrender,’ cried Curdie.

‘Then tie up your brute, and give her here.’

‘No, no,’ cried Curdie through the door. ‘I surrender; but I’m not going to do your hangman’s work. If you want MY dog, you must take her.’

‘Then we shall set the house on fire, and burn witch and all.’

‘It will go hard with us but we shall kill a few dozen of you first,’ cried Curdie. ‘We’re not the least afraid of you.’ With that Curdie turned to Derba, and said:

‘Don’t be frightened. I have a strong feeling that all will be well. Surely no trouble will come to you for being good to strangers.’

‘But the poor dog!’ said Derba.

Now Curdie and Lina understood each other more than a little by this time, and not only had he seen that she understood the proclamation, but when she looked up at him after it was read, it was with such a grin, and such a yellow flash, that he saw also she was determined to take care of herself.
‘The dog will probably give you reason to think a little more of her ere long,’ he answered. ‘But now,’ he went on, ‘I fear I must hurt your house a little. I have great confidence, however, that I shall be able to make up to you for it one day.’

‘Never mind the house, if only you can get safe off,’ she answered. ‘I don’t think they will hurt this precious lamb,’ she added, clasping little Barbara to her bosom. ‘For myself, it is all one; I am ready for anything.’

‘it is but a little hole for Lina I want to make,’ said Curdie. ‘She can creep through a much smaller one than you would think.’

Again he took his mattock, and went to the back wall.

‘They won’t burn the house,’ he said to himself. ‘There is too good a one on each side of it.’

The tumult had kept increasing every moment, and the city marshal had been shouting, but Curdie had not listened to him. When now they heard the blows of his mattock, there went up a great cry, and the people taunted the soldiers that they were afraid of a dog and his miner. The soldiers therefore made a rush at the door, and cut its fastenings.

The moment they opened it, out leaped Lina, with a roar so unnaturally horrible that the sword arms of the soldiers dropped by their sides, paralysed with the terror of that cry; the crowd fled in every direction, shrieking and yelling with mortal dismay; and without even knocking down with her tail, not to say biting a man of them with her pulverizing jaws, Lina vanished – no one knew whither, for not one of the crowd had had courage to look upon her.

The moment she was gone, Curdie advanced and gave himself up. The soldiers were so filled with fear, shame, and chagrin, that they were ready to kill him on the spot. But he stood quietly facing them, with his mattock on his shoulder; and the magistrate wishing to examine him, and the people to see him made an example of, the soldiers had to content themselves with taking him. Partly for derision, partly to hurt him, they laid his mattock against his back, and tied his arms to it.

They led him up a very steep street, and up another still, all the crowd following. The king’s palace-castle rose towering above them; but they stopped before they reached it, at a low-browed door in a great, dull, heavy-looking building.

The city marshal opened it with a key which hung at his girdle, and ordered Curdie to enter. The place within was dark as night, and while he was feeling his way with his feet, the marshal gave him a rough push. He fell, and rolled once or twice over, unable to help himself because his hands were tied behind him.

It was the hour of the magistrate’s second and more important breakfast, and until that was over he never found himself capable of attending to a case with concentration sufficient to the distinguishing of the side upon which his own advantage lay; and hence was this respite for Curdie, with time to collect his thoughts. But indeed he had very few to collect, for all he had to do, so far as he could see, was to wait for what would come next. Neither had he much power to collect them, for he was a good deal shaken.

in a few minutes he discovered, to his great relief, that, from the projection of the pick end of his mattock beyond his body, the fall had loosened the ropes tied round it. He got one hand disengaged, and then the other; and presently stood free, with his good mattock once more in right serviceable relation to his arms and legs.

CHAPTER 16
The Mattock

While The magistrate reinvigorated his selfishness with a greedy breakfast, Curdie found doing nothing in the dark rather tiresome work. it was useless attempting to think what he should do next, seeing the circumstances in which he was presently to find himself were altogether unknown to him. So he began to think about his father and mother in their little cottage home, high in the clear air of the open Mountainside, and the thought, instead of making his dungeon gloomier by the contrast, made a light in his soul that destroyed the power of darkness and captivity.

But he was at length startled from his waking dream by a swell in the noise outside. All the time there had been a few of the more idle of the inhabitants about the door, but they had been rather quiet. Now, however, the sounds of feet and voices began to grow, and grew so rapidly that it was plain a multitude was gathering. For the people of Gwyntystorm always gave themselves an hour of pleasure after their second breakfast, and what greater pleasure could they have than to see a stranger abused by the officers of justice?

The noise grew till it was like the roaring of the sea, and that roaring went on a long time, for the magistrate, being a great man, liked to know that he was waited for: it added to the enjoyment of his breakfast, and, indeed, enabled him to eat a little more after he had thought his powers exhausted.

But at length, in the waves of the human noises rose a bigger wave, and by the running and shouting and outcry, Curdie learned that the magistrate was approaching.

Presently came the sound of the great rusty key in the lock, which yielded with groaning reluctance; the door was thrown back, the light rushed in, and with it came the voice of the city marshal, calling upon Curdie, by many legal epithets opprobrious, to come forth and be tried for his life, inasmuch as he had raised a tumult in His Majesty’s city of Gwyntystorm, troubled the hearts of the king’s baker and barber, and slain the faithful dogs of His Majesty’s well-beloved butchers.

He was still reading, and Curdie was still seated in the brown twilight of the vault, not listening, but pondering with himself how this king the city marshal talked of could be the same with the Majesty he had seen ride away on his grand white horse with the Princess Irene on a cushion before him, when a scream of agonized terror arose on the farthest skirt of the crowd, and, swifter than flood or flame, the horror spread shrieking. In a moment the air was filled with hideous howling, cries of unspeakable dismay, and the multitudinous noise of running feet. The next moment, in at the door of the vault bounded Lina, her two green eyes flaming yellow as sunflowers, and seeming to light up the dungeon. With one spring she threw herself at Curdie’s feet, and laid her head upon them panting. Then came a rush of two or three soldiers darkening the doorway, but it was only to lay hold of the key, pull the door to, and lock it; so that once more Curdie and Lina were prisoners together.

For a few moments Lina lay panting hard: it is breathless work leaping and roaring both at once, and that in a way to scatter thousands of people. Then she jumped up, and began snuffing about all over the place; and Curdie saw what he had never seen before – two faint spots of light cast from her eyes upon the ground, one on each side of her snuffing nose. He got out his tinder box – a miner is never without one – and lighted a precious bit of candle he carried in a division of it just for a moment, for he must not waste it.

The light revealed a vault without any window or other opening than the door. It was very old and much neglected. The mortar had vanished from between the stones, and it was half filled with a heap of all sorts of rubbish, beaten down in the middle, but looser at the sides; it sloped from the door to the foot of the opposite wall: evidently for a long time the vault had been left open, and every sort of refuse thrown into it. A single minute served for the survey, so little was there to note.

Meantime, down in the angle between the back wall and the base of the heap Lina was scratching furiously with all the eighteen great strong claws of her mighty feet.

‘Ah, ha!’ said Curdie to himself, catching sight of her, ‘if only they will leave us long enough to ourselves!’

With that he ran to the door, to see if there was any fastening on the inside. There was none: in all its long history it never had had one. But a few blows of the right sort, now from the one, now from the other end of his mattock, were as good as any bolt, for they so ruined the lock that no key could ever turn in it again. Those who heard them fancied he was trying to get out, and laughed spitefully. As soon as he had done, he extinguished his candle, and went down to Lina.

She had reached the hard rock which formed the floor of the dungeon, and was now clearing away the earth a little wider. Presently she looked up in his face and whined, as much as to say, ‘My paws are not hard enough to get any farther.’

‘Then get out of my way, Lina,’ said Curdie, and mind you keep your eyes shining, for fear I should hit you.’

So saying, he heaved his mattock, and assailed with the hammer end of it the spot she had cleared.

The rock was very hard, but when it did break it broke in good-sized pieces. Now with hammer, now with pick, he worked till he was weary, then rested, and then set to again. He could not tell how the day went, as he had no light but the lamping of Lina’s eyes. The darkness hampered him greatly, for he would not let Lina come close enough to give him all the light she could, lest he should strike her. So he had, every now and then, to feel with his hands to know how he was getting on, and to discover in what direction to strike: the exact spot was a mere imagination.

He was getting very tired and hungry, and beginning to lose heart a little, when out of the ground, as if he had struck a spring of it, burst a dull, gleamy, lead-coloured light, and the next moment he heard a hollow splash and echo. A piece of rock had fallen out of the floor, and dropped into water beneath. Already Lina, who had been lying a few yards off all the time he worked, was on her feet and peering through the hole. Curdie got down on his hands and knees, and looked. They were over what seemed a natural cave in the rock, to which apparently the river had access, for, at a great distance below, a faint light was gleaming upon water. If they could but reach it, they might get out; but even if it was deep enough, the height was very dangerous. The first thing, whatever might follow, was to make the hole larger. It was comparatively easy to break away the sides of it, and in the course of another hour he had it large enough to get through.

And now he must reconnoitre. He took the rope they had tied him with – for Curdie’s hindrances were always his furtherance – and fastened one end of it by a slipknot round the handle of his pickaxes then dropped the other end through, and laid the pickaxe so that, when he was through himself, and hanging on the edge, he could place it across the hole to support him on the rope. This done, he took the rope in his hands, and, beginning to descend, found himself in a narrow cleft widening into a cave. His rope was not very long, and would not do much to lessen the force of his fall – he thought to himself – if he should have to drop into the water; but he was not more than a couple of yards below the dungeon when he spied an opening on the opposite side of the cleft: it might be but a shadow hole, or it might lead them out. He dropped himself a little below its level, gave the rope a swing by pushing his feet against the side of the cleft, and so penduled himself into it. Then he laid a stone on the end of the rope that it should not forsake him, called to Lina, whose yellow eyes were gleaming over the mattock grating above, to watch there till he returned, and went cautiously in. It proved a passage, level for some distance, then sloping gently up. He advanced carefully, feeling his way as he went. At length he was stopped by a door – a small door, studded with iron. But the wood was in places so much decayed that some of the bolts had dropped out, and he felt sure of being able to open it. He returned, therefore, to fetch Lina and his mattock. Arrived at the cleft, his strong miner arms bore him swiftly up along the rope and through the hole into the dungeon. There he undid the rope from his mattock, and making Lina take the end of it in her teeth, and get through the hole, he lowered her – it was all he could do, she was so heavy. When she came opposite the passage, with a slight push of her tail she shot herself into it, and let go the rope, which Curdie drew up.

Then he lighted his candle and searching in the rubbish found a bit of iron to take the place of his pickaxe across the hole. Then he searched again in the rubbish, and found half an old shutter. This he propped up leaning a little over the hole, with a bit of stick, and heaped against the back of it a quantity of the loosened earth. Next he tied his mattock to the end of the rope, dropped it, and let it hang. Last, he got through the hole himself, and pulled away the propping stick, so that the shutter fell over the hole with a quantity of earth on the top of it. A few motions of hand over hand, and he swung himself and his mattock into the passage beside Lina.

There he secured the end of the rope, and they went on together to the door.

CHAPTER 17
The Wine Cellar

He lighted his candle and examined it. Decayed and broken as it was, it was strongly secured in its place by hinges on the one side, and either lock or bolt, he could not tell which, on the other. A brief use of his pocket-knife was enough to make room for his hand and arm to get through, and then he found a great iron bolt – but so rusty that he could not move it.

Lina whimpered. He took his knife again, made the hole bigger, and stood back. In she shot her small head and long neck, seized the bolt with her teeth, and dragged it, grating and complaining, back. A push then opened the door. it was at the foot of a short flight of steps. They ascended, and at the top Curdie found himself in a space which, from the echo to his stamp, appeared of some size, though of what sort he could not at first tell, for his hands, feeling about, came upon nothing. Presently, however, they fell on a great thing: it was a wine cask.

He was just setting out to explore the place thoroughly, when he heard steps coming down a stair. He stood still, not knowing whether the door would open an inch from his nose or twenty yards behind his back. It did neither. He heard the key turn in the lock, and a stream of light shot in, ruining the darkness, about fifteen yards away on his right.

A man carrying a candle in one hand and a large silver flagon in the other, entered, and came toward him. The light revealed a row of huge wine casks, that stretched away into the darkness of the other end of the long vault. Curdie retreated into the recess of the stair, and peeping round the corner of it, watched him, thinking what he could do to prevent him from locking them in. He came on and on, until curdie feared he would pass the recess and see them. He was just preparing to rush out, and master him before he should give alarm, not in the least knowing what he should do next, when, to his relief, the man stopped at the third cask from where he stood. He set down his light on the top of it, removed what seemed a large vent-peg, and poured into the cask a quantity of something from the flagon. Then he turned to the next cask, drew some wine, rinsed the flagon, threw the wine away, drew and rinsed and threw away again, then drew and drank, draining to the bottom. Last of all, he filled the flagon from the cask he had first visited, replaced then the vent-peg, took up his candle, and turned toward the door.

‘There is something wrong here!’ thought Curdie.

‘Speak to him, Lina,’ he whispered.

The sudden howl she gave made Curdie himself start and tremble for a moment. As to the man, he answered Lina’s with another horrible howl, forced from him by the convulsive shudder of every muscle of his body, then reeled gasping to and fro, and dropped his candle. But just as Curdie expected to see him fall dead he recovered himself, and flew to the door, through which he darted, leaving it open behind him. The moment he ran, Curdie stepped out, picked up the candle still alight, sped after him to the door, drew out the key, and then returned to the stair and waited. in a few minutes he heard the sound of many feet and voices. Instantly he turned the tap of the cask from which the man had been drinking, set the candle beside it on the floor, went down the steps and out of the little door, followed by Lina, and closed it behind them.

Through the hole in it he could see a little, and hear all. He could see how the light of many candles filled the place, and could hear how some two dozen feet ran hither and thither through the echoing cellar; he could hear the clash of iron, probably spits and pokers, now and then; and at last heard how, finding nothing remarkable except the best wine running to waste, they all turned on the butler and accused him of having fooled them with a drunken dream. He did his best to defend himself, appealing to the evidence of their own senses that he was as sober as they were. They replied that a fright was no less a fright that the cause was imaginary, and a dream no less a dream that the fright had waked him from it.

When he discovered, and triumphantly adduced as corroboration, that the key was gone from the door, they said it merely showed how drunk he had been – either that or how frightened, for he had certainly dropped it. In vain he protested that he had never taken it out of the lock – that he never did when he went in, and certainly had not this time stopped to do so when he came out; they asked him why he had to go to the cellar at such a time of the day, and said it was because he had already drunk all the wine that was left from dinner. He said if he had dropped the key, the key was to be found, and they must help him to find it. They told him they wouldn’t move a peg for him. He declared, with much language, he would have them all turned out of the king’s service. They said they would swear he was drunk.

And so positive were they about it, that at last the butler himself began to think whether it was possible they could be in the right. For he knew that sometimes when he had been drunk he fancied things had taken place which he found afterward could not have happened. Certain of his fellow servants, however, had all the time a doubt whether the cellar goblin had not appeared to him, or at least roared at him, to protect the wine. in any case nobody wanted to find the key for him; nothing could please them better than that the door of the wine cellar should never more be locked. By degrees the hubbub died away, and they departed, not even pulling to the door, for there was neither handle nor latch to it.

As soon as they were gone, Curdie returned, knowing now that they were in the wine cellar of the palace, as indeed, he had suspected. Finding a pool of wine in a hollow of the floor, Lina lapped it up eagerly: she had had no breakfast, and was now very thirsty as well as hungry. Her master was in a similar plight, for he had but just begun to eat when the magistrate arrived with the soldiers. If only they were all in bed, he thought, that he might find his way to the larder! For he said to himself that, as he was sent there by the young princess’s great-great-grandmother to serve her or her father in some way, surely he must have a right to his food in the Palace, without which he could do nothing. He would go at once and reconnoitre.

So he crept up the stair that led from the cellar. At the top was a door, opening on a long passage dimly lighted by a lamp. He told Lina to lie down upon the stair while he went on. At the end of the passage he found a door ajar, and, peering through, saw right into a great stone hall, where a huge fire was blazing, and through which men in the king’s livery were constantly coming and going. Some also in the same livery were lounging about the fire. He noted that their colours were the same as those he himself, as king’s miner, wore; but from what he had seen and heard of the habits of the place, he could not hope they would treat him the better for that.

The one interesting thing at the moment, however, was the plentiful supper with which the table was spread. It was something at least to stand in sight of food, and he was unwilling to turn his back on the prospect so long as a share in it was not absolutely hopeless. Peeping thus, he soon made UP his mind that if at any moment the hall should be empty, he would at that moment rush in and attempt to carry off a dish. That he might lose no time by indecision, he selected a large pie upon which to pounce instantaneously. But after he had watched for some minutes, it did not seem at all likely the chance would arrive before suppertime, and he was just about to turn away and rejoin Lina, when he saw that there was not a person in the place. Curdie never made up his mind and then hesitated. He darted in, seized the pie, and bore it swiftly and noiselessly to the cellar stair.

CHAPTER 18
The King’s Kitchen

Back to the cellar Curdie and Lina sped with their booty, where, seated on the steps, Curdie lighted his bit of candle for a moment. A very little bit it was now, but they did not waste much of it in examination of the pie; that they effected by a more summary process. Curdie thought it the nicest food he had ever tasted, and between them they soon ate it up. Then Curdie would have thrown the dish along with the bones into the water, that there might be no traces of them; but he thought of his mother, and hid it instead; and the very next minute they wanted it to draw some wine into. He was careful it should be from the cask of which he had seen the butler drink.

Then they sat down again upon the steps, and waited until the house should be quiet. For he was there to do something, and if it did not come to him in the cellar, he must go to meet it in other places. Therefore, lest he should fall asleep, he set the end of the helve of his mattock on the ground, and seated himself on the cross part, leaning against the wall, so that as long as he kept awake he should rest, but the moment he began to fall asleep he must fall awake instead. He quite expected some of the servants would visit the cellar again that night, but whether it was that they were afraid of each other, or believed more of the butler’s story than they had chosen to allow, not one of them appeared.

When at length he thought he might venture, he shouldered his mattock and crept up the stair. The lamp was out in the passage, but he could not miss his way to the servants’ hall. Trusting to Lina’s quickness in concealing herself, he took her with him.

When they reached the hall they found it quiet and nearly dark. The last of the great fire was glowing red, but giving little light. Curdie stood and warmed himself for a few moments: miner as he was, he had found the cellar cold to sit in doing nothing; and standing thus he thought of looking if there were any bits of candle about. There were many candlesticks on the supper table, but to his disappointment and indignation their candles seemed to have been all left to burn out, and some of them, indeed, he found still hot in the neck.

Presently, one after another, he came upon seven men fast asleep, most of them upon tables, one in a chair, and one on the floor. They seemed, from their shape and colour, to have eaten and drunk so much that they might be burned alive without wakening. He grasped the hand of each in succession,and found two ox hoofs, three pig hoofs, one concerning which he could not be sure whether it was the hoof of a donkey or a pony, and one dog’s paw. ‘A nice set of people to be about a king!’ thought Curdie to himself, and turned again to his candle hunt. He did at last find two or three little pieces, and stowed them away in his pockets. They now left the hall by another door, and entered a short passage, which led them to the huge kitchen, vaulted and black with smoke. There, too, the fire was still burning, so that he was able to see a little of the state of things in this quarter also.

The place was dirty and disorderly. In a recess, on a heap of brushwood, lay a kitchen-maid, with a table cover around her, and a skillet in her hand: evidently she too had been drinking. In another corner lay a page, and Curdie noted how like his dress was to his own. in the cinders before the hearth were huddled three dogs and five cats, all fast asleep, while the rats were running about the floor. Curdie’s heart ached to think of the lovely child-princess living over such a sty. The mine was a paradise to a palace with such servants in it.

Leaving the kitchen, he got into the region of the sculleries. There horrible smells were wandering about, like evil spirits that come forth with the darkness. He lighted a candle – but only to see ugly sights. Everywhere was filth and disorder. Mangy turnspit dogs were lying about, and grey rats were gnawing at refuse in the sinks. It was like a hideous dream. He felt as if he should never get out of it, and longed for one glimpse of his mother’s poor little kitchen, so clean and bright and airy. Turning from it at last in miserable disgust, he almost ran back through the kitchen, re-entered the hall, and crossed it to another door.

It opened upon a wider passage leading to an arch in a stately corridor, all its length lighted by lamps in niches. At the end of it was a large and beautiful hall, with great pillars. There sat three men in the royal livery, fast asleep, each in a great armchair, with his feet on a huge footstool. They looked like fools dreaming themselves kings; and Lina looked as if she longed to throttle them. At one side of the hall was the grand staircase, and they went up.
Everything that now met Curdie’s eyes was rich – not glorious like the splendours of the mountain cavern, but rich and soft – except where, now and then, some rough old rib of the ancient fortress came through, hard and discoloured. Now some dark bare arch of stone, now some rugged and blackened pillar, now some huge beam, brown with the smoke and dust of centuries, looked like a thistle in the midst of daisies, or a rock in a smooth lawn.

They wandered about a good while, again and again finding themselves where they had been before. Gradually, however, Curdie was gaining some idea of the place. By and by Lina began to look frightened, and as they went on Curdie saw that she looked more and more frightened. Now, by this time he had come to understand that what made her look frightened was always the fear of frightening, and he therefore concluded they must be drawing nigh to somebody.

At last, in a gorgeously painted gallery, he saw a curtain of crimson, and on the curtain a royal crown wrought in silks and stones. He felt sure this must be the king’s chamber, and it was here he was wanted; or, if it was not the place he was bound for, something would meet him and turn him aside; for he had come to think that so long as a man wants to do right he may go where he can: when he can go no farther, then it is not the way. ‘Only,’ said his father, in assenting to the theory, ‘he must really want to do right, and not merely fancy he does. He must want it with his heart and will, and not with his rag of a tongue.’ So he gently lifted the corner of the curtain, and there behind it was a half-open door. He entered, and the moment he was in, Lina stretched herself along the threshold between the curtain and the door.

CHAPTER 19
The King’s Chamber

He found himself in a large room, dimly lighted by a silver lamp that hung from the ceiling. Far at the other end was a great bed, surrounded with dark heavy curtains. He went softly toward it, his heart beating fast. It was a dreadful thing to be alone in the king’s chamber at the dead of night. To gain courage he had to remind himself of the beautiful princess who had sent him.

But when he was about halfway to the bed, a figure appeared from the farther side of it, and came towards him, with a hand raised warningly. He stood still. The light was dim, and he could distinguish little more than the outline of a young girl. But though the form he saw was much taller than the princess he remembered, he never doubted it was she. For one thing, he knew that most girls would have been frightened to see him there in the dead of the night, but like a true princess, and the princess he used to know, she walked straight on to meet him. As she came she lowered the hand she had lifted, and laid the forefinger of it upon her lips. Nearer and nearer, quite near, close up to him she came, then stopped, and stood a moment looking at him.

‘You are Curdie,’ she said.

‘And you are the Princess Irene,’ he returned.

‘Then we know each other still,’ she said, with a sad smile of pleasure. ‘You will help me.’

‘That I will,’ answered Curdie. He did not say, ‘If I can’;

for he knew that what he was sent to do, that he could do. ‘May I kiss your hand, little Princess?’

She was only between nine and ten, though indeed she looked several years older, and her eyes almost those of a grown woman, for she had had terrible trouble of late.

She held out her hand.

‘I am not the little princess any more. I have grown up since I saw you last, Mr Miner.’

The smile which accompanied the words had in it a strange mixture of playfulness and sadness.
‘So I see, Miss Princess,’ returned Curdie; ‘and therefore, being more of a princess, you are the more my princess. Here I am, sent by your great-great-grandmother, to be your servant. May I ask why you are up so late, Princess?’

‘Because my father wakes so frightened, and I don’t know what he would do if he didn’t find me by his bedside. There! he’s waking now.’

She darted off to the side of the bed she had come from.

Curdie stood where he was.

A voice altogether unlike what he remembered of the mighty, noble king on his white horse came from the bed, thin, feeble, hollow, and husky, and in tone like that of a petulant child:

‘I will not, I will not. I am a king, and I will be a king. I hate you and despise you, and you shall not torture me!’

‘Never mind them, Father dear,’ said the princess. ‘I am here, and they shan’t touch you. They dare not, you know, so long as you defy them.’

‘They want my crown, darling; and I can’t give them my crown, can I? For what is a king without his crown?’ ‘They shall never have your crown, my king,’ said Irene. ‘Here it is – all safe. I am watching it for you.’

Curdie drew near the bed on the other side. There lay the grand old king – he looked grand still, and twenty years older. His body was pillowed high; his beard descended long and white over the crimson coverlid; and his crown, its diamonds and emeralds gleaming in the twilight of the curtains, lay in front of him, his long thin old hands folded round it, and the ends of his beard straying among the lovely stones. His face was like that of a man who had died fighting nobly; but one thing made it dreadful: his eyes, while they moved about as if searching in this direction and in that, looked more dead than his face. He saw neither his daughter nor his crown: it was the voice of the one and the touch of the other that comforted him. He kept murmuring what seemed words, but was unintelligible to Curdie, although, to judge from the look of Irene’s face, she learned and concluded from it.

By degrees his voice sank away and the murmuring ceased, although still his lips moved. Thus lay the old king on his bed, slumbering with his crown between his hands; on one side of him stood a lovely little maiden, with blue eyes, and brown hair going a little back from her temples, as if blown by a wind that no one felt but herself; and on the other a stalwart young miner, with his mattock over his shoulder. Stranger sight still was Lina lying along the threshold – only nobody saw her just then.

A moment more and the king’s lips ceased to move. His breathing had grown regular and quiet. The princess gave a sigh of relief, and came round to Curdie.

‘We can talk a little now,’ she said, leading him toward the middle of the room. ‘My father will sleep now till the doctor wakes him to give him his medicine. It is not really medicine, though, but wine. Nothing but that, the doctor says, could have kept him so long alive. He always comes in the middle of the night to give it him with his own hands. But it makes me cry to see him wake up when so nicely asleep.’

‘What sort of man is your doctor?’ asked Curdie.

‘Oh, such a dear, good, kind gentleman!’ replied the princess. ‘He speaks so softly, and is so sorry for his dear king! He will be here presently, and you shall see for yourself. You will like him very much.’

‘Has your king-father been long ill?’ asked Curdie.

‘A whole year now,’ she replied. ‘Did you not know? That’s how your mother never got the red petticoat my father promised her. The lord chancellor told me that not only Gwyntystorm but the whole land was mourning over the illness of the good man.’

Now Curdie himself had not heard a word of His Majesty’s illness, and had no ground for believing that a single soul in any place he had visited on his journey had heard of it. Moreover, although mention had been made of His Majesty again and again in his hearing since he came to Gwyntystorm, never once had he heard an allusion to the state of his health. And now it dawned upon him also that he had never heard the least expression of love to him. But just for the time he thought it better to say nothing on either point.

‘Does the king wander like this every night?’ he asked.

‘Every night,’ answered Irene, shaking her head mournfully. ‘That is why I never go to bed at night. He is better during the day – a little, and then I sleep – in the dressing room there, to be with him in a moment if he should call me. It is so sad he should have only me and not my mamma! A princess is nothing to a queen!’

‘I wish he would like me,’ said Curdie, ‘for then I might watch by him at night, and let you go to bed, Princess.’

‘Don’t you know then?’ returned Irene, in wonder. ‘How was it you came? Ah! You said my grandmother sent you. But I thought you knew that he wanted you.’

And again she opened wide her blue stars.

‘Not I,’ said Curdie, also bewildered, but very glad.

‘He used to be constantly saying – he was not so ill then as he is now – that he wished he had you about him.’

‘And I never to know it!’ said Curdie, with displeasure.

‘The master of the horse told papa’s own secretary that he had written to the miner-general to find you and send you up; but the miner-general wrote back to the master of the horse, and he told the secretary, and the secretary told my father, that they had searched every mine in the kingdom and could hear nothing of you. My father gave a great sigh, and said he feared the goblins had got you, after all, and your father and mother were dead of grief. And he has never mentioned you since, except when wandering. I cried very much. But one of my grandmother’s pigeons with its white wing flashed a message to me through the window one day, and then I knew that my Curdie wasn’t eaten by the goblins, for my grandmother wouldn’t have taken care of him one time to let him be eaten the next. Where were you, Curdie, that they couldn’t find you?’

‘We will talk about that another time, when we are not expecting the doctor,’ said Curdie.

As he spoke, his eyes fell upon something shining on the table under the lamp. His heart gave a great throb, and he went nearer. Yes, there could be no doubt – it was the same flagon that the butler had filled in the wine cellar.

‘It looks worse and worse!’he said to himself, and went back to Irene, where she stood half dreaming.

‘When will the doctor be here?’ he asked once more – this time hurriedly.

The question was answered – not by the princess, but by something which that instant tumbled heavily into the room. Curdie flew toward it in vague terror about Lina.

On the floor lay a little round man, puffing and blowing, and uttering incoherent language. Curdie thought of his mattock, and ran and laid it aside.

‘Oh, dear Dr Kelman!’ cried the princess, running up and taking hold of his arm; ‘I am so sorry!’ She pulled and pulled, but might almost as well have tried to set up a cannon ball. ‘I hope you have not hurt yourself?’

‘Not at all, not at all,’ said the doctor, trying to smile and to rise both at once, but finding it impossible to do either.

‘if he slept on the floor he would be late for breakfast,’ said Curdie to himself, and held out his hand to help him.

But when he took hold of it, Curdie very nearly let him fall again, for what he held was not even a foot: it was the belly of a creeping thing. He managed, however, to hold both his peace and his grasp, and pulled the doctor roughly on his legs – such as they were.

‘Your Royal Highness has rather a thick mat at the door,’ said the doctor, patting his palms together. ‘I hope my awkwardness may not have startled His Majesty.’

While he talked Curdie went to the door: Lina was not there.

The doctor approached the bed.

‘And how has my beloved king slept tonight?’ he asked.

‘No better,’ answered Irene, with a mournful shake of her head.

‘Ah, that is very well!’ returned the doctor, his fall seeming to have muddled either his words or his meaning. ‘When we give him his wine, he will be better still.’

Curdie darted at the flagon, and lifted it high, as if he had expected to find it full, but had found it empty.

‘That stupid butler! I heard them say he was drunk!’ he cried in a loud whisper, and was gliding from the room.

‘Come here with that flagon, you! Page!’ cried the doctor. Curdie came a few steps toward him with the flagon dangling from his hand, heedless of the gushes that fell noiseless on the thick carpet.

‘Are you aware, young man,’ said the doctor, ‘that it is not every wine can do His Majesty the benefit I intend he should derive from my prescription?’

‘Quite aware, sir, answered Curdie. ‘The wine for His Majesty’s use is in the third cask from the corner.’

‘Fly, then,’ said the doctor, looking satisfied.

Curdie stopped outside the curtain and blew an audible breath – no more; up came Lina noiseless as a shadow. He showed her the flagon.

‘The cellar, Lina: go,’ he said.

She galloped away on her soft feet, and Curdie had indeed to fly to keep up with her. Not once did she make even a dubious turn. From the king’s gorgeous chamber to the cold cellar they shot. Curdie dashed the wine down the back stair, rinsed the flagon out as he had seen the butler do, filled it from the cask of which he had seen the butler drink, and hastened with it up again to the king’s room.

The little doctor took it, poured out a full glass, smelt, but did not taste it, and set it down. Then he leaned over the bed, shouted in the king’s ear, blew upon his eyes, and pinched his arm: Curdie thought he saw him run something bright into it. At last the king half woke. The doctor seized the glass, raised his head, poured the wine down his throat, and let his head fall back on the pillow again. Tenderly wiping his beard, and bidding the princess good night in paternal tones, he then took his leave. Curdie would gladly have driven his pick into his head, but that was not in his commission, and he let him go. The little round man looked very carefully to his feet as he crossed the threshold.

‘That attentive fellow of a page has removed the mat,’ he said to himself, as he walked along the corridor. ‘I must remember him.’

CHAPTER 20
Counterplotting

Curdie was already sufficiently enlightened as to how things were going, to see that he must have the princess of one mind with him, and they must work together. It was clear that among those about the king there was a plot against him: for one thing, they had agreed in a lie concerning himself; and it was plain also that the doctor was working out a design against the health and reason of His Majesty, rendering the question of his life a matter of little moment. It was in itself sufficient to justify the worst fears, that the people outside the palace were ignorant of His Majesty’s condition: he believed those inside it also – the butler excepted – were ignorant of it as well. Doubtless His Majesty’s councillors desired to alienate the hearts of his subjects from their sovereign. Curdie’s idea was that they intended to kill the king, marry the princess to one of themselves, and found a new dynasty; but whatever their purpose, there was treason in the palace of the worst sort: they were making and keeping the king incapable, in order to effect that purpose- The first thing to be seen to, therefore, was that His Majesty should neither eat morsel nor drink drop of anything prepared for him in the palace. Could this have been managed without the princess, Curdie would have preferred leaving her in ignorance of the horrors from which he sought to deliver her. He feared also the danger of her knowledge betraying itself to the evil eyes about her; but it must be risked and she had always been a wise child.

Another thing was clear to him – that with such traitors no terms of honour were either binding or possible, and that, short of lying, he might use any means to foil them. And he could not doubt that the old princess had sent him expressly to frustrate their plans.

While he stood thinking thus with himself, the princess was earnestly watching the king, with looks of childish love and womanly tenderness that went to Curdie’s heart. Now and then with a great fan of peacock feathers she would fan him very softly; now and then, seeing a cloud begin to gather upon the sky of his sleeping face, she would climb upon the bed, and bending to his ear whisper into it, then draw back and watch again – generally to see the cloud disperse. in his deepest slumber, the soul of the king lay open to the voice of his child, and that voice had power either to change the aspect of his visions, or, which was better still, to breathe hope into his heart, and courage to endure them.

Curdie came near, and softly called her.

‘I can’t leave Papa just yet,’ she returned, in a low voice.

‘I will wait,’ said Curdie; ‘but I want very much to say something.’

In a few minutes she came to him where he stood under the lamp.

‘Well, Curdie, what is it?’ she said.

‘Princess,’ he replied, ‘I want to tell you that I have found why your grandmother sent me.’

‘Come this way, then, she answered, ‘where I can see the face of my king.’

Curdie placed a chair for her in the spot she chose, where she would be near enough to mark any slightest change on her father’s countenance, yet where their low-voiced talk would not disturb him. There he sat down beside her and told her all the story – how her grandmother had sent her good pigeon for him, and how she had instructed him, and sent him there without telling him what he had to do. Then he told her what he had discovered of the state of things generally in Gwyntystorm, and especially what he had heard and seen in the palace that night.

‘Things are in a bad state enough,’ he said in conclusion – ‘lying and selfishness and inhospitality and dishonesty everywhere; and to crown all, they speak with disrespect of the good king, and not a man knows he is ill.’

‘You frighten me dreadfully,’ said Irene, trembling.

‘You must be brave for your king’s sake,’ said Curdie.

‘Indeed I will,’ she replied, and turned a long loving look upon the beautiful face of her father. ‘But what is to be done? And how am I to believe such horrible things of Dr Kelman?’

‘my dear Princess,’ replied Curdie, ‘you know nothing of him but his face and his tongue, and they are both false. Either you must beware of him, or you must doubt your grandmother and me; for I tell you, by the gift she gave me of testing hands, that this man is a snake. That round body he shows is but the case of a serpent. Perhaps the creature lies there, as in its nest, coiled round and round inside.’

‘Horrible!’ said Irene.

‘Horrible indeed; but we must not try to get rid of horrible things by refusing to look at them, and saying they are not there. Is not your beautiful father sleeping better since he had the wine?’

‘Yes.’

‘Does he always sleep better after having it?’

She reflected an instant.

‘No; always worse – till tonight,’ she answered.

‘Then remember that was the wine I got him – not what the butler drew. Nothing that passes through any hand in the house except yours or mine must henceforth, till he is well, reach His Majesty’s lips.’

‘But how, dear Curdie?’ said the princess, almost crying.

‘That we must contrive,’ answered Curdie. ‘I know how to take care of the wine; but for his food – now we must think.’ ‘He takes hardly any,’ said the princess, with a pathetic shake of her little head which Curdie had almost learned to look for.

‘The more need,’ he replied, ‘there should be no poison in it.’ Irene shuddered. ‘As soon as he has honest food he will begin to grow better. And you must be just as careful with yourself, Princess,’ Curdie went on, ‘for you don’t know when they may begin to poison you, too.’

‘There’s no fear of me; don’t talk about me,’ said Irene. ‘The good food! How are we to get it, Curdie? That is the whole question.’

‘I am thinking hard,’ answered Curdie. ‘The good food? Let me see – let me see! Such servants as I saw below are sure to have the best of everything for themselves: I will go an see what I can find on their table.’

‘The chancellor sleeps in the house, and he and the master of the king’s horse always have their supper together in a room off the great hall, to the right as you go down the stairs,’ said Irene. ‘I would go with you, but I dare not leave my father. Alas! He scarcely ever takes more than a mouthful. I can’t think how he lives! And the very thing he would like, and often asks for – a bit of bread – I can hardly ever get for him: Dr Kelman has forbidden it, and says it is nothing less than poison to him.’

‘Bread at least he shall have,’ said Curdie; ‘and that, with the honest wine, will do as well as anything, I do believe. I will go at once and look for some. But I want you to see Lina first, and know her, lest, coming upon her by accident at any time, you should be frightened.’

‘I should like much to see her,’ said the princess.

Warning her not to be startled by her ugliness, he went to the door and called her.

She entered, creeping with downcast head, and dragging her tail over the floor behind her. Curdie watched the princess as the frightful creature came nearer and nearer. One shudder went from head to foot, and next instant she stepped to meet her. Lina dropped flat on the floor, and covered her face with her two big paws. It went to the heart of the princess: in a moment she was on her knees beside her, stroking her ugly head, and patting her all over.

‘Good dog! Dear ugly dog!’ she said.

Lina whimpered.

‘I believe,’ said Curdie, ‘from what your grandmother told me, that Lina is a woman, and that she was naughty, but is now growing good.’
Lina had lifted her head while Irene was caressing her; now she dropped it again between her paws; but the princess took it in her hands, and kissed the forehead betwixt the gold-green eyes.

‘Shall I take her with me or leave her?’ asked Curdie.

‘Leave her, poor dear,’ said Irene, and Curdie, knowing the way now, went without her.

He took his way first to the room the princess had spoken of, and there also were the remains of supper; but neither there nor in the kitchen could he find a scrap of plain wholesome-looking bread. So he returned and told her that as soon as it was light he would go into the city for some, and asked her for a handkerchief to tie it in. If he could not bring it himself, he would send it by Lina, who could keep out of sight better than he, and as soon as all was quiet at night he would come to her again. He also asked her to tell the king that he was in the house. His hope lay in the fact that bakers everywhere go to work early. But it was yet much too early. So he persuaded the princess to lie down, promising to call her if the king should stir.

CHAPTER 21
The Loaf

His Majesty slept very quietly. The dawn had grown almost day, and still Curdie lingered, unwilling to disturb the princess.

At last, however, he called her, and she was in the room in a moment. She had slept, she said, and felt quite fresh. Delighted to find her father still asleep, and so peacefully, she pushed her chair close to the bed, and sat down with her hands in her lap.

Curdie got his mattock from where he had hidden it behind a great mirror, and went to the cellar, followed by Lina. They took some breakfast with them as they passed through the hall, and as soon as they had eaten it went out the back way.

At the mouth of the passage Curdie seized the rope, drew himself up, pushed away the shutter, and entered the dungeon. Then he swung the end of the rope to Lina, and she caught it in her teeth. When her master said, ‘Now, Lina!’ she gave a great spring, and he ran away with the end of the rope as fast as ever he could. And such a spring had she made, that by the time he had to bear her weight she was within a few feet of the hole. The instant she got a paw through, she was all through.

Apparently their enemies were waiting till hunger should have cowed them, for there was no sign of any attempt having been made to open the door. A blow or two of Curdie’s mattock drove the shattered lock clean from it, and telling Lina to wait there till he came back, and let no one in, he walked out into the silent street, and drew the door to behind them. He could hardly believe it was not yet a whole day since he had been thrown in there with his hands tied at his back.

Down the town he went, walking in the middle of the street, that, if any one saw him, he might see he was not afraid, and hesitate to rouse an attack on him. As to the dogs, ever since the death of their two companions, a shadow that looked like a mattock was enough to make them scamper. As soon as he reached the archway of the city gate he turned to reconnoitre the baker’s shop, and perceiving no sign of movement, waited there watching for the